Category Archives: Winter 2011

Samantha Garcia

Samantha Garcia

Samantha Garcia

Samantha Garcia is the type of student you know you would be proud of. She has a clear focus of where she wants to go in life, plans to join a career where women might fear to tread, and is overcoming some pretty formidable obstacles to get there. Her prime motivator just might be that she has to prove people wrong.

“My sister told me out of high school that I shouldn’t consider college because by the time I got started I’d be married and pregnant,” said Garcia. That isn’t happening and Sammy is in her second year at Centralia College, headed toward to career in criminal justice.

“I want to join a SWAT team (Special Weapons And Tactics, team, an elite paramilitary tactical unit in American law enforcement departments). You don’t see many women, at least in real life, as members. I’ve been told it’s too much and I should try something else.” Another opportunity to prove someone wrong.

Before you suggest that those naysayers might have a point, hear this: In her first entry into a SWAT challenge she was the first Centralia College female to complete the challenge course. She ran the 1.5 mile run in under 10 minutes and finished off 50 push ups and 50 sit ups where 35 each was the standard. Add the challenge course pull ups and other physical challenges and you get the idea that Garcia can hold her own. She has a history a lot of time in the gym showing that’s she serious about her career choice.

Her list of activities continues with participation on a co-ed soccer team and two part-time jobs to help pay college costs. She also brings brain power to the table carrying a 3.5 grade point average and this year, as an honor student, she received a Centralia College Foundation scholarship.

“The scholarship is important, it will make a big difference for me. I am helping out my parents so I’ll keep the part-time jobs but now I won’t have to work three jobs,” she said. Garcia said she didn’t plan on applying for a scholarship but realized that it could make a difference so she made the application.

“Getting the (award) letter was awesome. I don’t think I expected it. It was an amazing feeling to know that there are people out there who have faith in me. I know I’ll be able to spend more time studying,” she said.

Garcia was born in Longview and came to Centralia when she was five. She completed high school but had no idea what kind of career she wanted. She spent two years after high school doing jobs she knew she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life doing.

“I really didn’t know anything about criminal justice college programs. I watched a lot of the ID: Investigation Discovery channel and that helped me decide that I wanted a career in law enforcement and that I wanted to be on a SWAT team,” said Garcia. She searched online and found the Centralia College criminal justice program. “I was what I was looking for and it was here. Also, I heard that it was really good so I enrolled.”

One of her favorite classes covered law and criminal justice.

“Law enforcement people need to know the legal issues,” she said. “People (on both sides of the law) have rights and there are a lot of laws.” She said law enforcement officers need to know those rights and the laws that protect people. “It’s an important part of criminal justice,” she said.

Garcia had high praise for the college’s instructors.

After she completes her studies at Centralia College she plans to transfer to Saint Martins University in Lacey to continue her studies in criminal justice. And as far as a career in criminal justice service as a member of a SWAT team is concerned, don’t tell her she can’t do it. Doubtless she will prove you wrong.


Michelle Turner

Michelle Turner

Michelle Turner

There may be many reasons why people choose to go to college. Close to the top for people who are raising children is the desire to carve out a better life for themselves and their family and to set an example for the kids. Underpinning that is the needed training to qualify for a better job.

Such is the case for Michelle Turner, a single mother of five children who is intent on becoming a registered nurse. Some people might think she is taking the long way to get there.

Turner attended high school in Battleground, Wash., without graduating. She later enrolled at Lower Columbia College in Longview and earned her GED in 2000. She was involved in living life on a different track until realizing she needed to get something better for herself and her kids. That something was an education. She came to Centralia College and is taking the prerequisites to enter the nursing program. After she earns her two-year degree here she wants to work in the community as a registered nurse.

“I chose Centralia College because it is close to home and I have heard only great things about the nursing program. I am thankful to have made this choice,” said Turner. She added that the faculty and staff here have been very helpful as she works toward success.

How have faculty helped: “For me, mostly that they are always available. Their office hours are posted and I know I can e-mail them or visit them if I need to. My instructors so far have even given their phone numbers where they can be reached. They are so accessible,” said Turner.

But there is more to it than helpful staff.

“I was concerned about being an older student and found that it is not even an issue here. There are students in my classes of all ages and I don’t notice the age difference. Centralia College still has the small, hometown feel and I appreciate that,” she said.

“I am going into nursing because I love to help people. I have wanted to be a nurse since I was a child. My mother was a nurse and has been my idol.” Turner also gets inspiration from other family members: “My kids have been so supportive and encouraging about me going back to school, I really couldn’t be doing all this without that support.”

That support, native talent, and a desire to succeed are all contributing to her success. In addition to being a single mother of five, ages 10–23, attending college full-time, and working part-time she is nurturing a 3.8 grade point average after two quarters at Centralia College.

She is also involved in campus activities through her on-campus employment.

“My work-study position in the College Relations office is making it possible for me to be involved in various campus activities. I appreciate having flexibility with my hours so that I can work while my kids are in school. Working in the College Relations office also makes me feel like I have an in on what’s happening on campus and I really like that,” she said.

Would she recommend Centralia College to others? “Yes, definitely, absolutely I would recommend Centralia College to others. Especially now it is so important to have an education. The (lower) cost here allows me to go to school. It has given me a boost in self-esteem! I am excited to tell others I am a student at Centralia College.”


Michelle Buckholz

Michelle Buckholz

Michelle Buckholz

Michelle Buckholz is a first-year student who knows some of the darker roads that some people tread. She also knows that one of the best ways to a brighter path is through education. She enrolled at Centralia College seeking a new start and a new career and is earning the credentials that will help her help others.

“My goal is to get a human services degree so I can do social work. I would like to work in counseling,” said Buckholz, a resident of Napavine. “I want to work with teens, to keep them from going down the path I went down.” She said she wants to make a difference in the lives of young people.

Drugs and alcohol were part of her past but she recently completed treatment to get her life back in order and give her the tools she needs as she sets out on a new road.

“I’m here with a fresh start and a focus for what I want to do,” she said.

It wasn’t that she didn’t have things going for her. Buckholz was an honor student in high school some 20 years ago, earned a scholarship and started at Washington State University with great expectations. WSU proved to be too big for her so she dropped out and moved closer to home. Before long she accepted a job in banking, a career she stayed with for 16 years.

Buckholz could have stayed with her banking job but she knew she needed to do something different to help her get her life turned around. That change centered on education.

Centralia College was the logical place since it was close to home. It is her fourth college in 20 years but this time she knows she will get her degree.

“I knew I had to jump in and do it (enroll in college), otherwise I probably would never do it,” said Buckholz. “Now my life isn’t as chaotic as it was. Now it’s going to kids’ games and doing homework. I keep myself pretty structured.”

Also, Centralia College faculty members are helping her find success.

“I’ve got great teachers; they’re all willing to help and they are always available–and that includes on weekends,” she said. “It makes a big difference. I’m determined to finish so I can show the people I’ve let down that I can do this.” She also takes advantage of the tutoring center to help her when the need arises.

Another resource she’s tapped into is Student Support Services, a program to help first-generation students through Centralia College and onto a four-year college or university.

“When I first heard about Student Support Services I thought that it was only for younger students but I was encouraged to apply. I got in and it’s great,” she said.

She’s a single mother of two kids and they also provide a lot of encouragement to keep her going.

She expects she will have this year to earn her two-year degree and then she plans to attend The Evergreen State College. Ultimately she would like to begin her social services career working in the region.

There are aspects of going back to college that are very different. For one thing 20 years have passed and she brings a lot more maturity.

“When I went to WSU the classes were huge. I wasn’t held accountable for being in class, the instructors couldn’t tell if there was a student missing, there were too many in the class. Also, I wasn’t very focused,” said Buckholz.

Now that she has a clear vision for what she wants to do and is going to school where faculty and staff care about her success, the outcome promises to be a lot different this time around.


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